Written By: Brooke Johnson
Tucked away on South Eighth Street in Saint Louis stands a rustic, local fan-favorite microbrewery called 4 Hands Brewery. Since opening in December of 2011, they have become popular in the competitive atmosphere of St. Louis.
The trademark for 4 Hands looks like four real hands clasping each other, and they are arranged to represent family and wheat. The four hands involved in the trademark represent the family of the owner, Kevin Lemp. The hands belong to himself, his wife and his two sons. He started the brewery after working in the industry for about a decade. Lemp has a background in sales and marketing, and with the support of his family, 4 Hands is his own version of a family owned brewery.
“I worked for Glazers Midwest and Gallo Winery for 10 years before I felt I knew everything I needed to know in order to start the brewery. During my time at Glazers and Gallo I was able to be apart of launching over 75 new brands or line extensions. This experience gave me a ton of exposure to what was needed in order to build a quality, sustainable, dynamic brand,” Lemp says.
The brewery consists of about 20,000 square feet with 3,000 of those square feet dedicated to aging barrels to prepare for the best tasting flavors for each season. 4 Hands has six consistent beers on tap and a variety of seasonal brews throughout the year. Currently, there are 14 beers at the ready for the guests to taste.
Lemps says the most popular seasonal barrel-aged beer is their Madagascar Imperial Milk Stout which is aged in Bourbon barrels for an entire year with Madagascar vanilla beans before being sold. There is typically a line of about 600 people waiting for this release. In regards to non-seasonal brews, Lemp says the most popular beer would be their City Wide Pale Ale. At the moment, this is the No. 2 selling Pale Ale on the market; However, it is on the rise and Lemp has reasons to believe that it will be the No. 1 selling Pale Ale next year. City Wide is also a philanthropic project. For every case sold, 4 Hands donates $1 to a local non profit.
As mentioned above, St. Louis is one of the most competitive beer markets in the world, especially with a worldwide distributor right on the doorstep of 4 Hands.
“We have the largest brewery in the world about a mile from us. They are a powerful company and spend an obnoxious amount of money every year on lobbyists. Some of this money is spent to make it more difficult for the craft brewery to succeed … Some of that money is spent to keep taxes low. It is a very two-sided sword for us as small independent brewers,” Lemp says.
“We also have 50 breweries in a 50 mile radius. This is not uncommon at this point. All markets are flooded with breweries at this point. When we opened there was 1,400 breweries, by the end of this year we will have over 6,000 breweries in the country.”
Even with so many competitors, 4 Hands stays successful based on their original flavors. Their staple recipes alongside their seasonal brews keeps their menu crisp, fresh and new.
“We are a very seasonally focused brewery. The majority of our volume comes from our year-round brands, but the seasonal portfolio keeps us interesting and front of mind to the customer. This year we will brew over 30 styles of beer,” Lemp says.
With the holidays on the verge, new seasonal brews, events and merch are up and selling. Salesmember Ben Johnson says one of the most popular items being sold are the growlers. Other merch include t-shirts, ornaments and of course, beer.
“Growlers are 64 oz reusable beer glasses pretty much. We fill ‘em up with the draft lines, we are selling them this year where you can give them as a gift, kind of like a gift card,” says Johnson. “Instead of getting someone a gift card, it’s nicer to give someone a physical present.”
St. Louis local and fan of the brewery, Caitlin Claire, claims that this microbrewery is a great place to gather for great-tasting beers and a friendly atmosphere. Claire says the first time she attended 4 Hands was for a wedding reception years ago. She notes that over the years it has expanded outward and upward.
“It’s a laid back, rustic atmosphere and ever changing. Every time I go in, there seems to be some new feature to keep the place looking fresh and different. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and their food is awesome, I especially like that their menu changes seasonally.”
Claire mentions that her favorite brew is Cuvée ange, which is a sour wild ale only available in March. According to their interactive website, it is “fermented with wild yeast and aged in a combination of Cabernet, Merlot, and Grenache barrels with raspberries and blackberries, Cuvee Ange is a fruity, tart and complex ale. Cuvee Ange pours a bright rose color with aromas of fruit, funk, and wood.” Other flavors range, but are not limited to, citrus, chili, and even a chocolate milk stout.
Next time you’re visiting St. Louis, stop by 4 Hands for some great tasting beer and food and to support local microbreweries!